Weekly Tips on Roleplaying.
This weeks tips!
1. Humour: A Link To The Top Ten Least Played D&D Classes
I'm not sure if you read the NeverWinter Vault, or Gamespy
regularly, but Gamespy has a top ten least played D&D
2. Kickstarting Vampire Sessions
If you have any question on how to start a Vampire session,
start with feeding. This is when vampires venture out into
the night to hunt. They stalk, corner, coerce, or seduce a
mortal then drink their blood. In most games and vampire
literature (like in the Dracula novel), the mortal is
weakened but not slain. Feeding scenes shouldn't take
forever and are normally run one character at a time.
When you describe what's happening, make it vivid. Maybe the
victim enjoys it, maybe they're terrified. Sometimes it's
predatory, sometimes sensual, sometimes pathetic.
Don't let the players be afraid to feed! Don't let them get
squeamish and say neutral things like, "I take 3 Blood
Points from the dancer." Make them describe the scene. Where
do they bite the victim? What do they do if the victim
If a character 'banks' or drinks from a stored source of
blood like a blood bag, be sure to make it painfully boring,
dreary and distasteful. Describe what it's like for the
hunters out among the clubs or the lovers in their beds.
Feeding is the essential act for vampires. It doesn't have
to be Gothic or punk. But it does have to do with an undead
parasite stealing a little bit of life from a victim ... and
that's a good way to set the mood for a Vampire session.
3. Character Mapping Tip
When I first encountered the problem of players not
understanding me when I gave a description I used this as a
reason to go and sharpen my verbal sword. Now my players
understand me, and we have a method of mapping that works
out well for everyone.
First, as GM, I will not map for the players, I have my
hands full doing GM things. So, I have the players use lines
and boxes for their maps. Let's face facts here, PCs are not
running around with tape-measures viewing the "fill-in-the-
blank" from a topological view.
So, I use descriptions like "you enter a vast vaulted
chamber", "the door opens into a modest cell", "you find
yourselves looking on to a room of moderate size with ...",
you get the idea. The "mapper" of the group simply draws a
box or rectangle, hexagon, etc., for the room. For the
hallways and passages, he uses lines with off-shoot branches
being denoted with a simple stroke of the pencil.
This also means that you DO NOT NEED graph paper as this
works best on blank paper. And, after all, what is the PCs'
map for? Simple, to get your butts out of a place no real
sane person would go into in the first place. That and to go
back to a room with interesting items and/or money!!!
The PCs' map does not have to be a carbon copy of the GM's
as long as it works.
4. Another Character Mapping Tip
I have solved the mapping problem by making a copy of the
dungeon map, cutting out the various rooms, and sticking
them to index cards. I then hand the cards to the players
one by one. In the case of "secret" doors and rooms, I edit
the picture before putting it on the card. Using heavy
black magic marker, it's a simple matter to create 'maplets'
that only show what I want them to show.
5. Dealing With Troublesome Players
In the Player Feedback Supplemental #1, someone suggested
punishing a player who doesn't behave properly. This is a
mistake I made when I was a brand-new DM, but out-grew
almost immediately -- it is just plain inappropriate to
punish players for pretty much anything game-related.
Not only does it almost never get the desired response, but
it ruins the evening for all the other players, too, to see
their buddy get squashed by the DM. It *NEVER* adds to the
fun of the game. Reward the good stuff, don't reward the
less-good stuff, and allow the game & players to evolve.
Players WILL eventually modify their behaviour to get the
Here's another thing -- if you find yourself frustrated
because you can't get your players to "play right", maybe
you're "DMing wrong." Ask them, after the session is over.
Maybe even end 20 minutes early (pick a point in the game
that makes sense, of course), and just say "Hey, guys -- I
sorta think of the game like this <blah blah>, but it seems
that you guys maybe aren't into that <blah blah--what they
don't do that you wish they did>. Should I maybe be planning
these sessions to be a little different? What do you guys
want to see here?"
Then let them talk. Don't get defensive, don't try to
convince them that your way is right. Don't complain about
all the time and energy you put into trying to create this
really fun thing -- just listen to what they say. Ask them
to clarify parts you don't get. Say "is that really fun? is
that what you guys want to do more of?", but not in a
derogatory way -- in a "we can do that, if you want" way.
Then think about it for a day or two. See if there's not
some way to do what you'd been thinking AND what your
players say they think is fun.
The next session, try to open with things "their way", and
only occasionally work in "your way" stuff. See if it
meshes. See how they like it.
After the session, ask if they liked that better. If so,
ask what they'd think about a little more of your-way mixed
in with their-way. Etc. Ask what they'd think about
alternating sessions and a 2nd campaign -- one your way, one
their way. Would anyone come? Would that be ok for a
change of pace? Etc.
[Comment from Johnn: here's the link to Supplemental #1:
6. Liven Up Your Traps For Low-Level PCs
I have subscribed to your magazine for a while now, and have
found it very helpful.
I'm sure that most DMs know of munchkins - a character that
is overpowered for their level of experience due to DM
leniency or whatever. I recently began DMing for players
who had mostly gamed before, but all in different campaign
worlds. Unfortunately, several of them turned out to be
I required that all of them start out as first-level
characters, rather than giving in to "But I already have
this great character..." demands. However, several of my
players are playing as though their characters are higher
level. Most of the plot/story lines are not affected, but
the players are almost too smart for their own good where
traps are concerned.
I responded with a twist on the standard trap. I upped the
level a bit on the traps I had scattered throughout my
dungeons to cater to those who thought they could charge
right through, and I also provided "clues" to what was up
ahead, for those who were legitimately stumped.
Set somewhere before each trap is a small plaque with the
letters FLW, followed by a quote, on it. FLW stands for
Famous Last Words, and the quote can come from any of a
half-dozen RPG sites, (One is is Rondak's Portal,
http://www.rondaksportal.com ) or from quotes made in
Each quote has something to do with the trap up ahead. The
PCs don't yet know anything more, other than a plaque
precedes a trap, and I have caught them with both insanely
simple traps (pull the lever and a block falls on your head)
and incredibly complex ones.
The players now get terribly nervous any time they run
across a plaque, or even a note or poster, anywhere.
Just a thought to liven things up for low-level characters.